What goes up, must come down. At least that is the case for an army during and after wartime, according to its top general.
As Pentagon observers search for winners and losers among the armed services after the Pentagon previewed its 2013 spending plan, it is easy to label the U.S. Army a big loser.
After all, if Congress approves an Obama administration plan, the ground service will shrink to 490,000 active-duty soldiers by 2017. That would be reduction of 80,000 troops. The Army also will shed "force structure"‑gear and equipment‑that is designed for stability and counterinsurgency operations like what the Iraq and Afghanistan wars morphed into during the last decade.
Meantime, the Navy and Air Force, for the most part, "thrived" under the 2013 spending plan that will be sent to Capitol Hill in two weeks, one former White House budget official noted.
So it was no surprise that Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno was asked if he feels his service took the brunt of the Pentagon's effort to begin implementing a congressionally mandated $350 billion, 10-year cut from planned spending.
"I believe the Army grew ... more than anybody else over the last five or six years, as we got involved in Iraq and Afghanistan ... because we were worried about the op tempo of our soldiers in our units, we grew the Army in order to meet our commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan," Odierno said during a Friday media briefing. "I'm comfortable now that. In fact, we're done with Iraq, our commitments are coming down in Afghanistan. We can now do this. So I don't see it as we're bearing the burden of it. I'm saying we're making a correction based on what we see out there as a potential threat."
Hawkish Republican lawmakers-eager to cast President Barack Obama as he faced re-election as neutering the nation's ground force-will no doubt see things very differently as they gear up for a fight with the White House over the proposed Army cuts.
"The President has abandoned the defense structure that has protected America for two generations," GOP House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, a California Republican, said Thursday. "This move ignores a critical lesson in recent history: that while high technology and elite forces give America an edge, they cannot substitute for overwhelming ground forces when we are faced with unforeseen battlefields," McKeon says.